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Tea and Snake Oil

The Tea Party, mutant spawn of the Republicans, held their spineless parents and the nation hostage during the debt ceiling crisis, and is now demanding an even greater ransom.

Flushed with what they mistakenly believe is success, they have launched an all-out assault upon the presidency. Their generals, fattened by Iowa corn and midway schmaltz, are Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain. Sarah Palin, hovering near the battlefields to soak up the media sunlight, much like a black hole absorbs all energy and light from nearby stars, is waiting to see how the war goes (and if she can write some intelligent sentences) before deciding to re-enter battle.

Bachmann is the winner of the strangest political non-election in the country, the Iowa Straw Poll. She won the race the old-fashioned way. She bought it.

To make sure that Iowans entered the Tents of Instant Gratification and, thus, cast their ballot the right way, the candidates, who paid $15,000–$31,000 to rent space at Iowa State, provided food, music, and carnival fun for the voters. Bachman had a petting zoo, and drew fans to a concert by country superstar Randy Travis. Cost of the banquet: $30 a ticket.

To assure there were enough votes, Bachmann’s campaign, like all other campaigns, paid the $30 admissions ticket. That would be $144,690 for 4,823 votes, plus several hundred thousand dollars in related campaign expenses. Related campaign expenses for the candidates included renting charter buses to bring voters from throughout Iowa to Ames.

But, Iowans aren’t stupid. Many wanted to see Randy Travis and eat the food of politics but didn’t plan to vote for Bachmann. About 6,000 persons took the “free” $30 tickets. Thus, she officially paid $180,000, $37.32 a vote; unofficially, with all expenses figured in, the cost could easily have been well over $200 a vote so she could be the winner and earn the title of Media Darlin’ of the Week.

The establishment media generally avoided Ron Paul, the second place winner, who “only” got 4,671 votes, 152 less than Bachmann, and 27.7 percent. Paul is a pariah in the Republican party, and something the media can’t figure out, because he actually has a core set of principles, which sometimes leads him to ally with liberals, but for different reasons.

Third place, with 13.6 percent of the vote and, according to numerous media pundits not charismatic enough to be a serious contender, went to Tim Pawlenty, who didn’t drink much of the tea and dropped out of the race after spending about $1 million in Iowa. Not dropping out were Tea Party favorites Rick Santorum (9.8 percent) and Herman Cain (8.6 percent), who lured voters into his tent with free Godfather’s Pizza. Mitt Romney, who had spent about $2 million in the 2007 Straw Poll, but skipped this year’s non-binding poll, finished behind Rick Perry, dripping tea with every statement he makes, entered the presidential race only after the Iowa Straw Poll, but did get 718 write-in votes for 4.3 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, Romney is still believed to be the front-runner.

Thus, going into the primary season, the Tea Party can arouse themselves with Bachmann, Perry, Santorum, Cain, and maybe Palin. Not identified with the Tea Party, but in its gravitational pull are Romney, Jon Huntsman, and whatever is left of Newt Gingrich’s chances.

The Tea Party began a few months after Barack Obama was elected president, with a stated purpose to reduce wild government spending. But its deep structure shows an amorphous bunch of white middle-class ultra-conservatives, aided by upper-class political consultants and media manipulators, who have developed the ability to sound impressive with only half-truths behind their rants and chants, and a zealous determination to keep President Obama out of a second term.

During the debt ceiling crisis, Tea Partiers refused to budge on a demand of not raising the debt ceiling, cutting numerous social and educational programs, and holding firm to the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Everyone must cut back, especially during economic crises, they bleated. Austerity is their mantra.

But, based upon their extravagant lifestyle and the wild spending they did in Iowa, shouldn’t their mantra now be “hypocrisy”?

Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated social issues journalist. His current book, Before the First Snow, looks at an energy company that lures citizen consent because of jobs in a depressed economy, but which may threaten health, safety, and environment.

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Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues journalist. His latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an analysis of the history, economics, and politics of fracking, as well as its environmental and health effects.

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